Maria Rita Cabral is graduated in medicine and housewife with 4 sons and 6 grandchildren.
She comes from the state of Minas Gerais and grew up in farms, always loving plants in general.
At about 3 or 4 years ago, she started to cultivate orchids at her country house in Paty do Alferes, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, at 600 m altitude.

ON: Why did you start to cultivate orchids? Which was the magic moment of attraction? Have you been influenced for someone or something?

MR: I had some orchids between my plants in Paty, but without the uncontrolled passion which got me. My sons grew up giving me more time. Reading about Delfina (may be she is found out it now) in her site and about Érico de Freitas work, little by little, I started to buy plants. Suddenly, I saw my self calling D. Helga de Freitas, asking her to help me buying plants which will be thrive and forming big clumps in Paty, in a mountainous region of the state of Rio de Janeiro. Until now I like to have plants forming big clumps, I use to buy cutting scion and put them together instead of dividing (it is a kind of degeneration, I think).
Then I took heart and asked Delfina to help me to identify plants from which I just had
photos. She was very kind to me.
If I had influence, yes, I had from Érico (by his work and by D. Helga), from Delfina, from the senior growers of the list I participate, from my friend Apolônia Grade, from Américo Docha, Dalton Batista, Alexandre Bicolor, Carlos Keller, Fátima Caires, Paparelli, Vera Coellho, from my friend Mariana de Paty. I think I will forget some very important people but I had my first contacts with the people I mentioned due to the kind of cultivation I chose.

ON: How long have you been cultivating orchids?

MR: There are at about 3 or 4 years, observing, studying, buying many literature, learning with senior growers.

ON: Hybrids or species. If species, which one do you have more? Among yours, do you have a favorite plant?

MR: I can't say that I don't have hybrids but 90% are, for sure, species. I think that I have more Pleurothallis, Maxillaria, Oncidium although I have many Bulbophyllum, Cattleya, Bifrenaria. I would say that Maxillaria species are my favorite, I can't resist to form a clump with them, often buying 3 or 4 small clumps and put them together. I use to say that Jorge Luiz (Itaorchis) makes me to buy his hybrids but the species really fascinate me.

Maxillaria sp

Bulbophyllum lobbii

Bifrenaria harrisoniae alba

C amethystoglossa

ON: How long do you spend taking care of your orchids daily?

MR: If I am in Paty, at the week-end, in general, I spent 4 or 6 hours. Here, in Rio de Janeiro, reading, participating of discussions, at about 2 hours a day. During the vacation, I try to stay in Paty more time in order to take care of them.

ON: How many plants do you have?
MR: At about 1200 plants, included those I should look with magnifying glass as Carlos Henrique Paparelli says.
ON: In spite of the number of plants, you don't have a nursery or green house in a traditional means.
MR: I made a deal with my husband for not having a greenhouse. He wanted a paysagism compatible with his ideal. So my cultivation is all in the nature.
I have many trees with more than 30 years which are full of orchids, planted on the trunk or hanged. Between the trees, I put old trunks, old carriages, full of pots.
I also have 3 places with stagings under the trees. I put a lot maidenhair as well as polypodies and Platycerium dispersed to improve the humidity. I also have wood trellis-work, with cloth shade because, during the winter, the sun touches the side of it and also because some trees lose their leaves during this period. I keep the humidity of the environment watering the grass frequently. I have a "S" shaped wire mesh under the most leafy tree supported by pvc tube full of pebbles, fixed on the ground where I hang the micro orchids as well as Dracula, Masdevallia, some Pleurothallis.

ON: Which are the climate conditions in your place?
MR: Paty is cold as Petrópolis, however it is driest. The winter is cold and the temperature can drop to 10º C but it is dry. The summer is humid and the nights are fresh. During the fall and the winter, we have morning mist. I don't lose plants for lacking of water, I just need rains and sun alternating in order to guarantee that the compost dries out during the summer.

Anathallis leptotifolia on the root
ON: What could you tell us about fertilizer, watering, pot, com posts and so on.
MR: I have a successful experience with open-work baskets wood although I have many clay pots and some plastic one. The cultivation in rock-crushed or in PET doesn't work with the gardener who takes care of my plants during the week. With the PET, he watered too much, watered over the leaves and I have problems with fungi while the pots with pure rock-crushed (as many growers successfully adopted), he watered too little. I just use rock-crush mixed to charcoal and pine bark. As compost, I used in pots and open-work baskets “Rendmax orquídeas e bromeliads”. Some times, I dare with pots.

Cork as pot for micro

Sapucaia as pot
For example, I use 'sapucaia' and cork, as supports or as pots.
As a pot, I perforate the "sapucaia", put pebbles and compost inside. As a support, I put the plant outside.
I use the cork bark as support or I put two together and made a pot for micro orchids. I also use to get or to buy old trunks, beautiful roots and plant orchids on them. I have an old root with more than 10 different Catasetum, it looks like one but when it is blooming, we clearly see that there are many gathered plants. I have a root with Anathallis leptotifolia that I really love. I fertilize with “Peter’s” intercalating weekly blooming and grown formula. This month, I started to use the fertilizer Durigan which drops the PH allowing a better absorption. Each three month, I apply bocashi.
ON: And the control of cultural ailments?

MR: As all plants are outside, they are exposed to insects so I use, preventively, “Neem I Go” weekly. I could use it fortnight but, I do in this way in order to be sure that all plants are receiving the product. If the housekeeper applies the product in a hurry, it could not get every plant, if he applies weekly, there is a chance that the plants missing one week will receive the product in the week after. This product is a mixed of Neem oil, garlic, red pepper, karanja oil, urucum (annatto - Bixa orellana) and artemisia (Chrysanthemum parthenium). It has fungicide, insecticide even viricide affects so I have little problems with insects and fungi. I use a 1% dissolution at the end of day. It is a natural product, it doesn't harm animals such birds I have in my back yard.

ON: With this cultivation outside and plants spread over the garden, which is the solution you find to make the watering easier?

MR: I did a watering system using PVC tube with sprinkling which goes up covered by coconut fiber between the trees. I just use it during the winter to guarantee more humidity. During the summer, in order to avoid the housekeeper waters too much, we keep it closed. I try to control the humidity from Rio asking the housekeeper the weather, if it is cold, if there is wind, which is rate of humidity, so I can tell him if he should water or not.

ON: Is there a short or an amusing story connected to orchids you can tell us?

MR: I met again people who I knew in my child wood and have lost the contact, we met each other in the list of discussion about orchids. This part of meeting people, exchange information is very rewarded to me as well as the new friendship we make.

ON: One said that orchidophilia a soft manifestation of madness. Have you done any "orchidophilic" insanity?

MR: I think so when I bought a Sophronitis coccinea alba, if we think about costs.

ON: Thank you, Maria Rita

Photos: Maria Rita Cabral

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